“change happens very slowly” – Ansel Krut
“every day do three things” – the Chapman brothers
“…taking into account the context of your practice when looking at an individual work…” – Dawn Mellor
From the book “The Gift of Therapy”, by the existentialist psychiatrist Irwin Yalom. I have often adapted many of his beliefs about the psycho-therapeutic process to the process of teaching art:
- Remove the obstacles to growth
- Avoid labelling
- Teacher and student can be “fellow travellers” (avoid hierarchy)
- Be supportive
- Empathy- looking out from the student’s window
- Let the student matter to you
- Acknowledge your errors
- Create a new teaching strategy for each student
- Provide feedback effectively and gently
- You can be taught by your student
One can take students further than one has gone, in terms of an artistic journey.
Think of Nietzsche’s aphorism, “Some cannot loosen their own chains yet can nonetheless redeem their friends.”
Talk about yourself as an artist/individual only in so far as it is helpful to the student. Honest self-disclosure is important for a genuine teacher-student relationship. Opacity is not helpful.
Thoughts that have stayed with me from my years as a student:
“Art is process.” – (This implies change) Suhail Malik
“Art is imagination.” – David Medalla
“Art is a journey, an adventure made visible.” – Yves Michaud
“You will never please everyone; concentrate on communicating with the people who understand you and your work better.” – Ger Van Elk
“If an artist says he has to eat, then he is up to no good.” Ad Reinhart
“Art happens in spite of the art market.” (Gerhard Richter)
“I am here to comfort you in the midst of your chaos” Jean-Michel Alberola
“I have great faith in bad studio days” Pierre Buraglio.
Teaching should be considered an extension of one’s practice- a crucial component, in which ideas (both the teacher’s and the students’) can be shared, discussed, improved, or constructively questioned/refuted.
Books that have been particularly helpful to me whilst a student or a young artist:
“Wet- On Painting, Feminism and Art Culture” (1997) by Mira Schorr
“The Dynamics of Creation” by Anthony Storr (1993)
“The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaki Way of Knowledge” by Carlos Castaneda (1990)
A few months ago I attended a classical music concert, at I time when I was feeling anxious about my ability to make good artwork, or to deliver acceptable work in time for a deadline. I looked at the people in the orchestra, who looked calm, concentrated and at peace with themselves. I thought about how the many hours of disciplined, daily practice that musicians engage in, help them to confront the “moment of truth” vis à vis an audience. Their practice, like that of all artists, is about the humble here and now, about giving the best of one self, every day, and having faith in that daily commitment.
Alicia Paz, artist & teacher